IT'S called the "Platypus Papers," and in it, Dirck Halstead, Time magazine's senior White House photographer, discusses a "strange new breed"- newspaper and magazine photographers with the skill to hoist a television camera to the eye and at the same time cover the story with still cameras.
The full version of the "Platypus Papers" is the cover story of the July '97 issue of Visual Communication Quarterly, which is bound into the center of this issue of News Photographer. The discussion began when Halstead received an email query from a young photographer:
"The documentary style of photography is where my passion lies . . . But I would like to take what I have learned in the last couple of years with still photography and try to use a video camera in the same sense. A few questions: Where can I start? What is the industry standard hi-8 camera that the 'new breed' of television journalists use? Will I have to re-mortgage my house to get one? What does the job market look like? Can a video freelancer sell a feature story like a still photographer would propose/sell a photo story to a magazine or newspaper?"
Halstead, coincidentally planning presentations dealing with this subject at various workshops and seminars around the country, responded on the Internet that he was "stumped trying to find a title for these lectures." Meanwhile, Tom Burton, of The Orlando Sentinel, brought up the story of the Platypus and how upon its discovery in Australia in the mid-18th century threw the zoological community into an uproar. Biologists had comfortably placed the animal kingdom into distinct categories - birds, mammals, reptiles, etc. - but once this new beast appeared that crossed the lines between the classifications, it threw all the conventional thinking on the subject out the window. Burton asked, "Is there anything like a Platypus in photojournalism today?"
Burton, to Halstead's satisfaction, summarized the philosophy of what the Platypus (the papers) is about: "We are trying to look for a way to create leverage to make our storytelling appeal to an ever-changing marketplace. We are using some of these new tools and skills to give us a higher place to stand so that we can exert that leverage."
Mark Loundy, NPPA's Telecommunications Committee chairman, weighed in on NPPA-L, observing to the list that he thought that "maybe Dirck Halstead has seen the Platypus."
Maybe Halstead has...
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